I like what HTC has been up to lately. Rather than fighting a race to the bottom with endless soulless variants of the same piece of hardware in a crowded (and fiercely competitive) Android handset market, it’s trying to grow beyond just being a handset manufacturer. 

I hate starting reviews with history lessons, but in this case we really do need to step back to see where HTC is coming from. In the beginning, HTC was a nameless OEM for other more famous brands. Its clients were smartphone and Pocket PC names like Palm with its Treo, Compaq with its iPaq, Dell with a number of the Axim PDAs, and UTStarcomm. As Windows Mobile aged and showed little signs of improving, HTC took its first step outside the bounds of being just a hardware assembler by taking on an ambitious project to revitalize Windows Mobile with a software skin. The fruits of this effort were TouchFlo, and later TouchFlo 3D UIs - which eventually would become HTC Sense. Somewhere between the release of the HTC Mogul and HTC Touch Pro, HTC realized that its future wasn’t purely in manufacturing devices for other handset vendors, but in leveraging its own brand. The combination of continually improving industrial design, software, and its own direction have turned HTC into the device manufacturer it is today. 

Things have come a long, long way since the HTC Dream, and today we’re looking at HTC’s latest and greatest with the HTC Sensation. 

I get a bit excited every time I look at the HTC Sensation. It’s a device with perhaps the strongest and most bold design language of any HTC phone to date. You can pretty much chart HTC’s design language by looking at each generation of its international handsets.

The HTC Desire was essentially an international version of the Nexus One, with hardware buttons but the same 65nm single core Snapdragon QSD8250 SoC. The second generation was the HTC Desire HD, which brought a larger 4.3” screen and 45nm Snapdragon MSM8255 SoC. The third step is the HTC Sensation, which ups resolution from WVGA 800x480 to qHD 960x540 and brings a 45nm dual core Snapdragon MSM8260 SoC. 

Physical Comparison
  Apple iPhone 4 HTC Thunderbolt LG Optimus 2X/G2x HTC Sensation
Height 115.2 mm (4.5") 122 mm (4.8") 123.9 mm (4.87") 126.3 mm (4.97")
Width 58.6 mm (2.31") 67 mm (2.63") 63.2 mm (2.48") 65.5 mm (2.58")
Depth 9.3 mm ( 0.37") 13.2 mm (0.52") 10.9 mm (0.43") 11.6 mm (0.46")
Weight 137 g (4.8 oz) 183.3 g (6.46 oz) 139.0 g (4.90 oz) 148 g (5.22 oz)
CPU Apple A4 @ ~800MHz 1 GHz MSM8655 45nm Snapdragon 1 GHz Dual Core Cortex-A9 Tegra 2 AP20H 1.2 GHz Dual Core Snapdragon MSM8260
GPU PowerVR SGX 535 Adreno 205 ULP GeForce Adreno 220
RAM 512MB LPDDR1 (?) 768 MB LPDDR2 512 MB LPDDR2 768 MB LPDDR2
NAND 16GB or 32GB integrated 4 GB NAND with 32 GB microSD Class 4 preinstalled 8 GB NAND with up to 32 GB microSD 4 GB NAND with 8 GB microSD Class 4 preinstalled
Camera 5MP with LED Flash + Front Facing Camera 8 MP with autofocus and dual LED flash, 720p30 video recording, 1.3 MP front facing 8 MP with AF/LED Flash, 1080p24 video recording, 1.3 MP front facing 8 MP AF/Dual LED flash, VGA front facing
Screen 3.5" 640 x 960 LED backlit LCD 4.3” 800 x 480 LCD-TFT 4.3" 800 x 480 LCD-TFT 4.3" 960 x 540 S-LCD
Battery Integrated 5.254Whr Removable 5.18 Whr Removable 5.6 Whr Removable 5.62 Whr

Physically it’s obvious that each successive device builds on the former. They’re all backed with HTC’s trademark purple-grey metal and have similar in-hand feel as a result. When I look at the Sensation, I see the Desire crossed with the Desire HD. When I actually hold the Sensation, I feel like I’m holding a grown-up Nexus One.

The two share that trademark combination of slightly rubbery plastic and metal, and as a result the device feels grippy, solid, and confident. What the Sensation also really continues from the other devices is the lack of a hard lip of any kind at the edge, instead every corner rolls off giving the phone a smooth feeling. The sensation of holding something rigid and expensive is communicated by that combination of materials, rather than the cheap plasticky feel conveyed by a number of other handsets. 

The Sensation comes in the same style of packaging that we've seen other T-Mobile phones arrive in. It's a two-part box with a thin middle strip. The top lifts off revealing the phone, and underneath that is the usual paperwork, HTC AC adapter and microUSB cable, and earbuds. 

I started off making one monolithic video for the Sensation, but that ended up being unwieldy, so I split it into multiple parts. The first one is simply a look at the hardware from all angles, torn down, and how it compares to both HTC's legacy devices and some of its modern contenders. 

Physical Overview Continued
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  • sam46 - Saturday, July 2, 2011 - link

    brian,you have not yet answered my question?

    And pls dont take too much time too review these flagship smartphones.Other websites have already posted the reviews of sensation and sgs2,they even compared them.Instead of waiting for an american version of sgs2,go and get an international version and post the review with in two weeks.Keep in mind that your readers are going to other websites for smartphone reviews.
  • sam46 - Sunday, July 3, 2011 - link

    brian,could you please respond?
  • sam46 - Monday, July 4, 2011 - link

    Brian,please respond.
  • nraudigy2 - Saturday, July 9, 2011 - link

    Sensation will only play 720p flash videos. Only Galaxy S2 plays 1080p. Tegra 2 phones still on 480p.
  • lazn_ - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    How can we get the manufactures to understand that we don't want their crappy bloated buggy interface UI spooged all over our screens?

    I have ruled out ever buying a HTC android product because of HTC Sense. I was looking at Motorola since my old Droid is great, but now they smear their Motoblur crap on top of everything they make..

    I mean really, MFGS: You are paying your programmers to make your phones CRAPPIER! How does this make sense?

    Some of us want a clean uncluttered functional phone without having to root the damn thing.

    COME ON! The first Dual Core, Uncluttered Android phone available to buy will be my next phone. Till then YOU ARE NOT GETTING MY MONEY. I'll consider the evil empire (Apple) before going to a "Microsoft Bob" based android phone. (and if you don't get that reference kids, Google it)
  • synaesthetic - Sunday, July 3, 2011 - link

    You'll probably have to wait for the next Nexus/dev phone to get an unobstructed Android experience.
  • aryonoco - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    Just wanted to thank you Brian for an awesome review. Such a pleasure to read, and the depth of knowledge really shines. In this age of gadget blogs who don't know what they are talking about, AT is just such a breadth of fresh air.

    The Sensation looks like a nice device. If I was in the market to buy a new phone, it and the SGSII would be at the top of my list. But I think my HTC Desire, running Gingerbread and with a new battery, still has some life left in it. I'll probably give this generation a miss and wait for the new Nexus phone. The rumored 720p resolution (if it is indeed true) would be amazing.
  • iwod - Saturday, July 2, 2011 - link

    Thanks, so it is between 4 to 4.3". Lets just hope Apple introduce a 4.15" display. :P
  • erple2 - Wednesday, July 6, 2011 - link

    I disagree - I like the smaller iPhone screen, and prefer it to these giant Android screens. I think that Apple had the right idea - make the phone as small as possible while still being usable.

    I'm not saying to go Zoolander small, but anything larger than my Samsung Captivate is just too large, IMO. That's a 4" screen, I believe. I'd still like a slightly smaller screen, however.

    The SGS2 appears to be a 4.27" screen - IMO too large. I'm disappointed in that. I'm not sure what my next phone purchase will be, when I finally drop my Captivate against the wall in frustration at it's horrifyingly bad cell antenna not working at all.
  • Trisagion - Saturday, July 2, 2011 - link

    I got tired of waiting for your review and went out and bought the Samsung Galaxy S II. All I can say is ... what a fucking brilliant phone. Without a doubt, the best smart phone available this year - right from the brilliant, crisp display to 16GB on board storage to snappy dual core goodness.

    Sensation? What Sensation?

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